Sur l'Etoile (On the Star) is the first in the series of comic books Le Monde d'Edena, by the French artist Moebius (Jean Giraud).

Published by Casterman (paperback, 1990, ISBN 2-203-34503-9).

There are three stories in the volume 'Sur l'Etoile': the silent comic 'La Planète Encore' ('The Planet Again'), 'Réparations' ('Reparations'), and 'Sur l'Etoile' itself. The tales concern the exploits of astronauts Stel and Atan, a pair of galactic adventurers. The art is in in Moebius' classic futurist style, reminiscent of Hergé; figures crisply outlined in black, fleshed out with mainly flat slabs of colour. All text is in French, and there is no published translation I know of. (If you know of one, tell me!)

'La Planète Encore':

23 pages. Colours by Moebius.

There is no text in this silent comic. Stel and Atan (we do not learn their names) set down a rocket ship on the surface of a planet, barren but for a solitary gull. They make an excursion through canyons to a nearby ruin resembling a temple, which is surmounted by a giant buddha-like statue. Eerily petrified bodies of the ex-inhabitants crowd around the entrance. While Stel conducts archaeological tests in the inner sanctum, Atan is transfixed by the alien design on a plinth; in a fantasy, he is taken on a wild flight around a primeval planet by an androgynous alien. Glorious ceremony and song ensues among an alien congregation. Coming round from this illusion, Atan is confronted with a stone statue of himself that has materialized on the sanctum's plinth - and immediately, alien plants burst through the temple floor. The planet teems with life as the pair race to their aircraft and free it from the grasp of sprouting vegetation. They return to the ship to blast off into space, dozens of the alien people flying with them, smiling and wheeling around the rocket (whose bulbous nose had now almost vanished beneath the blooms of alien trees and giant flowers).

This beatifully told story evokes themes that are to recur throughout Stel's and Atan's later engagement with the planet Edena. Reviving and invigorating the planet through their presence, the pair face an inversion of the effect that the lush Edena will later have on them. They will not be able to run away from fecund nature next time! Atan's apparent adoption as godhead by the alien people is a premonition of the events of La Déesse (The Goddess), while the androgyny of the alien race reflects Stel's and Atan's own uncertain genders. There are also plainer merits to it: it has humour, atmosphere, and characters that, without words, nonetheless establish a dialogue both with each other and with the reader.


6 pages. Colours by Moebius and Claudine Giraud.

This miniature sees the pair on planet 'Stirinx', apparently on call as interplanetary repairmen. A biomechanical being (a 'mâitre des voies', literally 'master of roads' or 'of ways') has broken down and Stel ventures into its engine - its fragile heart - in order to effect a repair. He enters a dreamlike sequence that is biographical not only of Stel but also of Moebius, through it healing the being's anxiety.

This strip exposes Moebius' interest in dreams and fantasy as a motive force in narrative. While Stel's 'repair' of the road-master at first appears to be merely allegorical, it represents his actual experiences. For Moebius' characters dreams are both a product of and a producer of real events; this reappears with the wild dreams that Atan and Stel have on Edena. The fantasy world has a relationship with reality that cannot be reduced to metaphor; the two realms are bound together in mysterious and sometimes frightening ways.

'Sur l'Etoile':

Subtitled 'Une Croisiére Citroën' ('A cruising Citroën'). 39 pages. Colours by Moebius, 'Domdom', 'Frayzic' and Bernard Hugueville.

As the story opens, Stel and Atan are travelling a remote corner of the galaxy in their ship Atoris, almost out of fuel. Entering a long-abandoned asteroid refinery, they hope to scavenge for supplies. While investigating the cause of the crew's disappearance, Stel sets off an alarm of some kind. The asteroid's course changes, and the asteroid turns into a meteor, plunging toward the giant planet it orbited. He takes control of the rock's primitive retro rockets, steering them into a crash landing.

The surface is a totally flat desert. Observing a strange atmospheric phenomenon at some distance, the pair resolve to travel to its source. Atoris being wrecked, their transport will be ancient technology salvaged from the bowels of the asteroid, a vintage 1938 Citroën cruiser! Taking the role of chauffeur once more, Stel drives them towards what turns out to be something like a refugee city. It is a collection of rusting alien spaceships, surrounding a vast blue pyramid planted in the desert.

The inhabitants of the spaceships are still camped around the pyramid, kept alive indefinitely by its mysterious power. But the structure has a still stranger influence on Stel - one which will be a ticket off the planet for all the pilgrims stranded there.

This story was initially written for Citroën's promotions department as a present to be given to its dealers. This was a deliberate departure for the company; they ended up with a uniquely entertaining, though bizarre, form of corporate fiction. The story seems to be a meditation on chauffeuring, upon the elegance of travel; and the value of beatiful design. The 1938 Citroën car and the blue pyramid are examples of the perfect in a universe that is grubby and difficult. They bring joy as well as utility. Whether this reflects some larger philosophical issue is debatable; I prefer to think of this tale as a giant deus ex machina to get the series off to its real beginning in Les Jardins d'Edena. Witty, perhaps, that the focus of the story is wholly on the machina.

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